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Expert Excerpts: Sally Toister on Lean Six Sigma in Hospitality - GoLeanSixSigma.com

Whether you’re just starting your Lean Six Sigma journey, or you’re in the middle of improving a process, guidance from Experts can help make your efforts easier – and more successful! In this Expert Excerpt, we interview Expert Sally Toister, who shares key insights to being successful with Lean Six Sigma in the Hospitality industry.

Sally Toister is the Senior Operations Leader for Marriott Hotels in the U.S. and Canada. She is a Certified Master Black Belt with 20+ years experience specializing in deploying Lean Six Sigma programs that drive top line revenue, improve margins, and elevate customer experience. She is a leader of sustainable innovative process improvement programs in hospitality, service and fulfillment industries.

What advice do you have for someone who is getting started with applying Lean Six Sigma in Hospitality?

My advice for getting started with applying Lean Six Sigma in Hospitality, or any industry, would be to understand why you want to implement Lean Six Sigma. Make sure your program is a core program with full support from the top. Invest in the resources needed for success and establish strong partnerships. As your program matures, constantly look for ways to keep it relevant for your business.

Invest in the resources needed for success and establish strong partnerships.

What are some common mistakes you see people making when applying Lean Six Sigma in Hospitality?

Relying on one tool and measuring success based on frequency of that activity. We launched our Six Sigma program with DMAIC. Regardless of the scope of the problem, we applied the DMAIC methodology for every opportunity. We measured program application with goals such as, “complete X# of DMAIC projects.” As our program matured, we realized we needed to expand the toolbox, ensuring we had the right tools to solve the right problems. We needed to flex to the business needs of the time, build a robust Lean Six Sigma toolbox and draw upon them all.

…build a robust Lean Six Sigma toolbox and draw upon them all.

Do you have any pet peeves related to Lean Six Sigma application in Hospitality?

When I hear people say, “Lean Six Sigma is a manufacturing tool.” Regardless of industry, if there is a start and stop action and a customer involved, you can (and should!) apply Lean Six Sigma. Hospitality is rich with voice of the customer feedback and Lean Six Sigma provides a structured framework for translating, filtering and addressing the needs of our customers.

Is there anyone who has significantly influenced you over the years?

Front line Associates. They are the heart of our organization and I learn from them every day! Our property level Lean Six Sigma community has played a key part in the evolution of our program over the years. Their feedback on what is working and not working has influenced the development of more tools, with expanded application throughout the organization.

They are the heart of our organization and I learn from them every day!

Why do you do what you do? (What motivates you?)

Passion people have for excellence. Early in my career my dad taught me that people come in to work wanting to do a good job. If they aren’t performing well, ask why. And I did that. I asked why… a lot. Often, the answer was that the process they were told to follow was broken and highly inefficient. We were setting them up for failure. Lean Six Sigma provides a platform to change that. Getting people engaged to solve a problem, seeing the excitement on their faces in those a-ha moments and celebrating the results of the processes they developed – that’s motivating.

Lean Six Sigma provides a platform to change that.

What’s something exciting that you’re currently working on?

With the acquisition, my focus is currently on integrating Lean Six Sigma at Marriott Hotels. Having the opportunity to introduce Lean Six Sigma to property and above property leaders for the first time is exciting. This transition has provided an opportunity to evaluate our overall Lean Six Sigma program – ensure our tools align with the overall business focus and existing programs, that we have the right resources in place, and establish partnerships for success.

What’s your favorite application of Lean Six Sigma in your personal life (away from work)?

I’m a real nerd about this, as there are several examples of applying Lean Six Sigma in my personal life. My husband, Jeff, frequently jokes that I probably have a spreadsheet chock full of conditional formulas populating smiley faces on just about anything. It is true. Some spreadsheets do exist.

One of my favorites though is the 5S project I did on our garage in 2009. I recognize the nerd factor in admitting that I had so much fun with this one. I spent a day in the garage, sorting, setting in order, shining everything. By the end of the day, I had filled our trash bin, relocated everything that didn’t need to be in the garage and everything left had a place. With the exception of the discovery of a water pipe with hammer and nail, the project went super smooth. I am proud to say, the garage basically looks the same today!

Expert Excerpt: Sally Toister - 5S Garage Project - GoLeanSixSigma.com

Have a question for Sally? Please feel free to ask in the comments below.

Sally Toister

Sally Toister is the Senior Operations Leader for Marriott Hotels in the U.S. and Canada. She is a Certified Master Black Belt with 20+ years experience specializing in deploying Lean Six Sigma programs that drive top line revenue, improve margins, and elevate customer experience. She is a leader of sustainable innovative process improvement programs in hospitality, service and fulfillment industries.